Ralph Peters seems more convincing in today’s NYPost. The ending: Are the Iraqis really trying to lure us deep into their country so they can spring a trap on our forces? The Iraqis have no choice in the matter. Our troops go where they want to go.
Yes, the Iraqis are probably planning a large military confrontation, an operational-level ambush, close to Baghdad — while forces left in our rear area attack our supply lines. They may even have left some of the bridges across the Euphrates standing on purpose.
If so, it was a grave error. If those Republican Guards divisions do try to “ambush” our forces, they simply will not survive. Even if their plan includes the use of chemical weapons.
Thus far, our troops have performed magnificently, seizing dozens of airfields, bridges, roads, oil fields and other critical infrastructure, enabling us to maneuver swiftly and freely, while preserving the backbone of Iraq’s economy for its people. And we prevented an ecological catastrophe (doubtless disappointing the antiwar protesters, who would have loved to accuse us of damaging the environment when we aren’t killing babies).
Even if the Iraqis have some grandiose master plan they hope against hope to spring on us, they never expected to lose so much of their country so quickly. They are reeling, and any plan of theirs could only be executed piecemeal, at this point.
After less than four days of ground operations, they have lost control over half their country, they have lost control over most of their military, and allied forces are closing in on Baghdad.
But what about the “Battle of Baghdad”? Will it be a bloodbath? Haven’t the Iraqis already lured us into urban warfare in the south? No. The Iraqis haven’t lured us into anything. We have consistently imposed our plan and our will upon the enemy. While there have been some incidences of urban combat to date, with friendly casualties, our forces are far better prepared for such encounters than are the Iraqis. The Marine Corps, especially, has been training intensively in urban environments.
That said, we are not going to be lured into a “Stalingrad” in Baghdad. Ignore the prophets of doom, who have been wrong consistently. As this column has steadily maintained, we have time, Saddam doesn’t, and if we have to sit in a ring around Baghdad for a few weeks or even months while the last resistance is dismantled in innovative ways, then that is what we will do.
Grave dangers lie ahead. Only a fool would underestimate them. But this war is not being run against a clock. The counsel that we must all be patient and let our troops do their jobs remains the best a former soldier can give.
As long as the American people keep their perspective — which they will — it really doesn’t matter how many journalists lose theirs.